Sliced Sweet Potato Pie

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It’s been a few months since I updated the blog, and I apologize to my followers. Back in August, I transferred from corporate dining to campus dining and I’ve been working around the clock ever since. Things are starting to calm down at work, just in time for the holidays, so I’ve been dusting off some family recipes. This is the one time of the year when  I will actually do some baking. Baking is a science and requires one to follow a recipe more closely. Those of you that know me well, know that I rarely follow a recipe as written, so baking has never been something I was enthused to do. Still, I hold the family recipes and the family expects cookies, cakes and pies when the holidays roll around.

Everyone knows how to make sweet potato pie but most people have only had the whipped up version. This version is different. It’s more elegant that something dumped out of a can. As you can see by the photo, it makes a beautiful dessert plate for the holidays and it’s not much more complicated that the baby food version.

  • 1/2 package of refrigerated pie crusts
  • 2 1/2# small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 orange peel strips (use a vegetable peeler to create)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp loosely packed orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Streusel topping (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 375F. Fit the piecrust into a 9″ deep-dish pie plate, folding the edges under and crimping. In a Dutch oven, bring the potatoes, granulated sugar, orange peel and 1 cup of water to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium and simmer 6-8 minutes until potatoes are just tender.

Transfer the potatoes to a large colander, reserving the cooking liquid. Rinse the potatoes with cold water. Transfer the cooking liquid and orange peel strips to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/4 cup. Reserve 2 tbsp of the potato-orange liquid and discard the rest.

Transfer the potatoes to a bowl and toss with brown sugar, flour, spice and orange zest and the reserved 2 tbsp of the potato-orange liquid. Spoon into the crust. Sprinkle with streusel and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, shielding with foil after 30 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool completely and serve at room temperature.

Streusel Topping: Stir together 3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans, 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar, 3 tbsp melted butter, 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice and 1/8 tsp salt. Let stand for 30 minutes, then crumble into small pieces atop the prepared pie

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German Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars

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Even after making numerous pecan pies for Thanksgiving, I’ve still got plenty of pecans left from this year’s crop produced by the big tree out back. With that in mind, I ran across a recipe in a recent Southern Living magazine for pecan pie bars and decided to give it a try. Like most every recipe I find, my end result varies a little because I’ll add a little of this or a dash of that; anything I think will improve the end result.

These are delicious! If you’re looking for something different to take to a party or give as a gift this year, give these tasty bars a try!

  • 3 cups pecan halves and pieces
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup cold unsalted sweet cream butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup good quality bourbon (I used Knob Creek)
  • 3 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut

First, preheat your oven to 350F. Arrange the pecans in a single layer on a sheet pan and cook for 8-10 minutes, until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

Line the bottom and sides of a 9″x13″ pyrex dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil, leaving 2-3 inches on each side to extend over the sides of the pan. Lightly grease the foil (I just spray with Pam).

In a food processor, pulse the flour, powdered sugar, cold cubed butter and cocoa 5-6 times, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a pastry blender tool or even your hands. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of your glass dish.

Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the crust with the chocolate morsels. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack (about 30 minutes).

While the crust is cooling, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, bourbon and the eggs until smooth. Stir in the coconut and toasted pecans and spoon mixture into the cooled crust.

Bake at 325F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour), then chill for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Lift the baked bars from the pan using the aluminum foil sides as a handle. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into bars. Peel off the foil and enjoy!

Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding

One thing my customers are always saying is that I make some of the best bread pudding they’ve ever eaten. I have several variations on bread pudding and try to make a pan about once a week. Blueberry, chocolate, orange-cranberry, traditional… I make whatever based on what I’ve got in the coolers and pantry.

Recently we had some croissants that were turning stale and I needed to use them. Since I’m not a true “baker”, I’ll usually look online for a recipe idea and then take off on it, because I hate following a recipe. This recipe started the same way, but because I’ve had a bumper crop of pecans from the home tree this year, I’m also looking at ways to use them in my fall cooking. This recipe can be made as a dessert or as a breakfast/brunch bread pudding. If you’re making it for the later, simply mix it up and refrigerate overnight, then bake off when you wake up.

 

  • 10 cups cubed, day-old croissants (about 5 large croissants)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups pure canned pumpkin
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 cups half & half
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted pecans

In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs, sugars, salt and vanilla extract. Fold in the pumpkin, then add the half & half and milk. Add the cubed croissants and toss well to incorporate. The mixture should be slightly soupy and if needed, add a little more milk.

Pour mixture into a greased 9″x13″ glass baking dish. Top with pecan halves. Bake at 350 for approximately an hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out with no liquid on it. Cool on a wire rack. Best served warm but not hot! (If the pecans start to get too brown during baking, cover lightly with aluminum foil)

For a breakfast/brunch serving, simply top with pure maple syrup. If you’re serving as a dessert, mix 1 box of powdered sugar with 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice and top by dipping a wire whisk into the sugar glaze and lightly shaking it over the surface.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Here’s my recipe for a true Southern style pecan pie. The bourbon is optional, but it really brings out the flavor in this pie. Give it a try if you love pecans!

 

  • 6 tbsp unsalted sweet cream butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup dark brown corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp Wild Turkey or Jack Daniels (or whatever you’ve got around the house)
  • 2 cups pecan halves or pieces, divided
  • 1 9″ unbaked pie shell

Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add the vanilla extract, salt, corn syrup and bourbon.

Arrange half the pecans on the bottom of the unbaked pie shell. Pour the batter over the pecans and top with the remaining pecans. Bake in a 350F oven for about 1 hour.

Be careful to watch the pie as it bakes. If the pecans begin to get too brown, lightly cover the pie with aluminum foil.

 

 

Orange Cinnamon Rolls

If you can’t tell from my posts, I’ve been on a sweet kick lately. I guess that happens after you pass 40. This is a really simple recipe for making “almost homemade” cinnamon rolls. I love orange cinnamon rolls so I added orange zest to the rolls and orange juice to the icing, but if you prefer a more traditional cinnamon roll, leave the zest out of the roll and replace the orange juice in the icing with milk. The hardest part of making these is finding the frozen bread dough. You’ll have to check a real grocery store; I don’t think Walmart has frozen bread dough but I could be wrong.

 

Roll dough:

  • 1 1# loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Icing:

  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 14-in. square. Spread butter over dough. In a small bowl, combine the pecans, sugar, brown sugar, orange peel and cinnamon. Sprinkle over dough.

Roll up jelly-roll style; pinch seams to seal. Cut into 1/2-in. slices. Place cut side down in two greased 9-in. round baking pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Bake at 350° for 14-16 minutes or until golden brown. Combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, vanilla and enough orange juice to achieve desired consistency; drizzle over warm rolls. Yield: about 2 dozen.

Glorious Morning Scratch Muffins

 

For the past few years, we have served a variety of fresh baked muffins at work and my customers have grown accustomed to a nice hot muffin. Like many foodservice establishments, we cheated. Our muffins were fresh baked, but not fresh made. We bought muffin batter that you “scooped and baked” to save time (and labor costs). Customers loved them, so it was a win-win situation.

Things changed when I switched companies recently. I had the same customers looking for their usual breakfast muffins, but our new grocery supplier offered a “less than favorable” alternative for muffin batter. My customers have not been happy, so I promised them I would make some scratch muffin batter this weekend to serve this coming week in the cafe.

Since baking is not my thing (I love to cook but I DESPISE following recipes), I had to scour magazines and internet recipes to try and find something I felt was comparable to what my customers are expecting tomorrow morning. This recipe is a tweak; I started with a basic muffin recipe and made it my own. They turned out delicious, so I thought I’d share with you this extremely easy recipe for making homemade muffins. You can use this recipe for for a variety of muffins by substituting the flavorful ingredients. In fact, I used the basic part of this recipe (as noted below) to create 5 varieties of muffins for breakfast tomorrow (Glorious Morning, Chocolate Chip, Blueberry, Banana Nut and Cranberry-Orange-Almond). I’m sharing the whole recipe for the Glorious Morning muffins which are by far my biggest seller, but noting where you can substitute to make other varieties.

There’s no need to buy muffin mix in a bag or box when most all these ingredients can be found in most of your pantries! Give them a shot! The good thing is, you can mix them up on Friday evening and refrigerate the batter. Then scoop into your muffin tins and bake Saturday morning!

Basic Muffin Batter:

  • 1 8oz container of sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the sour cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla and mix for 30 seconds. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, soda and cinnamon and mix to incorporate (I use a wire whisk to mix dry ingredients). Add the dry ingredients to the wet in the mixer and run on low just long enough to incorporate into a batter. That’s your basic muffin mix.

For Glorious Morning Muffins:

To the batter add 1 peeled and diced Granny Smith apple, 1/4 cup minced carrots (I use shredded carrots and pulse them in the food processor), 1 tbsp orange marmalade, 1/4 cup shredded coconut, 1/2 cup chopped pecans or almonds, 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries

If you wanted to make blueberry, to the batter add some fresh or thawed, frozen blueberries and add the orange marmalade.

For cranberry-orange-almond, use dried cranberries, sliced almonds and orange marmalade.

For banana nut, I use crushed pecans and 2 overly ripe bananas, smashed up with your hands or run through the food processor.

For chocolate chip, just add chocolate chip morsels straight from the bag.

Scoop muffin mix into a 12 muffin tin pan or 6 jumbo muffin pan. Bake at 325F for 18-25 minutes (depending on the size, less time for smaller muffins, more for larger) or until brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Pistachio Ambrosia Salad

Down south, congealed fruit salads are a big thing. Every church social, potluck or holiday meal includes a version of this tasty treat. Each family has their own recipe and each recipe has its own name, but they are all similar and usually contain the following or variations: pudding, Jello, fruit, nuts, KoolWhip, etc. Some have cream cheese, some don’t. In my family, my sister-in-law makes a version she calls “FLUFF”.

The recipe I use came from the “Ask Heloise” section of the newspaper. It’s tasty, sinful and especially refreshing on a hot summer’s afternoon. Considering the high in Birmingham was 106F today, I needed something refreshing, so I whipped up a bowl of this wonderful salad, and thought I’d share this “tried and true” recipe with you.

  • 1 can crushed pineapple in juice
  • 1 can chunk pineapple in juice, or substitute with 1 chopped fresh, really ripe pineapple (I usually have a pineapple around the house, because it’s my favorite fruit, so that’s what I used)
  • 1 cup nuts (I used pecans)
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1 small box instant pistachio pudding
  • 16oz soft KoolWhip

If using a fresh pineapple, here’s a secret test to see how ripe your fruit is. Try pulling out one of the green leaves atop the pineapple. A pineapple at the perfect stage of ripeness will give up a leaf with little pressure. It should also be a yellow color on the outside and not green between the scales.

In a medium bowl, add the crushed pineapple and chunks with their juice. Sprinkle the pistachio pudding over the pineapple, stir and let it sit for a minute or two. Next add the nuts, coconut and marshmallows and combine. Fold in the softened KoolWhip.

Refrigerate, covered, for at least an hour before serving. How easy is that??? 🙂

Redneck Cobbler

This recipe is so simple, I almost feel bad for sharing it, but it was so delicious and so ridiculously simple, I thought why not share it with everyone. Cobblers are made all over the south. They are a great way to use up ripe fruit from the trees in your yard, or fruit sold out of pickup trucks and car trunks on the side of the road all over the south come summer. Everyone loves a cobbler and this is probably the easiest cobbler I’ve ever made that tasted like a homemade dessert. Sure, you can open a couple of cans of fruit pie filling and throw on a pre-made cobbler crust, but this recipe actually tastes homemade. Give it a shot and you’re sure to impress your family and friends!

  • 2 pounds of fresh fruit (your choice of fruits including peaches, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc) OR you can purchase a 2 pound bag of frozen fruit from the grocery store if making out of season
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 box Duncan Hines BUTTER recipe yellow cake mix
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • Sliced Almonds or Pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a heavy bottom saucepan, cook the fruit and brown sugar until hot and bubbly. Pour fruit into a greased casserole dish (I use a deep dish Corningware French White lasagna casserole, about 3″-4″ deep so it won’t bubble out when baking). If you want to add nuts, sprinkle them liberally over the top of the fruit.

Open the butter cake mix and pour over the top of the fruit. Don’t mix up the mix, use the mix in its dry form straight from the box. Melt the butter in a glass measuring cup and pour over the top of the cake mix, covering as much of the surface with the butter as possible.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown.

If you really want a rich version of this recipe, use 3 sticks of butter instead of 2. It’s delicious, but will surely clog your arteries. We’d call the 3 stick version the Paula Dean Redneck Cobbler!

 

Italian Chocolate Spice Cookies

These cookies are my favorite! I don’t have a “recently prepared” photo to show them off but I found this stock photo that’s pretty close to the finished cookie. These cookies almost remind me of gingerbread but they are better. As soon as I make a batch, I’ll post a better picture. This recipe was written in my great grandmother’s (Fortunata Vizzina Schilleci) hand.

  • 2 pounds all purpose flour (4 cups)
  • 1 pound of sugar (2 cups)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp each, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, allspice
  • 6 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3/4 pound Shortening (1 1/2 cups + 3 tbsp)
  • 1 pint milk, heated
  • 1 cup raisins (no color specified)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • juice from 2 fresh squeezed oranges

Melt the shortening; add the warm milk, then the sugar. Sift all remaining dry ingredients together and then add the pecans and raisins. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and stir well. Let dough rest for 10 minutes. Pinch off in a small ball the size of large marbles, place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Combine the powdered sugar and orange juice in a bowl. Once cookies have cooled, dip each cookie into the sugar glaze so that it covers the top 1/2 of the cookie. Let cookies dry completely. Icing will set like glaze on a cooled doughnut.

Makes 60-75 cookies.

Cream Cheese Christmas Cookies

This has to be one of the easiest Christmas cookie recipes ever! They are delicious though, which makes it that much better that they are so easy to make.

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 3oz package of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • Candied cherries or toasted pecan halves for garnish
  • Dusting of powdered sugar (optional)

Cream the butter and cream cheese; slowly add the sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk. Add the flour and vanilla, mixing well with a large spoon. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Shape the dough into 1″ balls with your hands, and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Gently press a candied cherry half (red or green, or mix them up) or a toasted pecan half into the top of each cookie. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cookie won’t take on much color on top, but will be golden brown on the bottom. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. If desired, sprinkle cookies with powdered sugar.